This week is the Mental health /mental illness awareness week, and therefore I've decided to talk about something very personal to me. Something I usually don't mention, but should mention more often. I'm going to talk about eating disorders. I know some of you might already feel a bit uncomfortable, thinking "don't say it. Just keep it to yourself". But let me tell you something. Hiding the problem won't make the eating disorders go away. It won't help the men and women struggling every day to accept themselves. It won't make them recover. Avoiding the topic because it is "uncomfortable" will only increase the taboo and support the though that mental illness is something we are not allowed to talk about. That it is something we should hide. I know, because that's how I felt. But the thing is we grow by doing the things we are scared of, and that's why I'm now breaking the rules and publish this text. To prove to myself that my fight was real, and I have every right to talk about it. To help other people who are currently struggling. To spread awareness of a deadly illness, because that's what it is. In fact, every 62 minute someone dies as a direct result of an eating disorder. We need to take this shit serious.
I can't give you all the answers and solutions to fight eating disorders, but I can give you my story, straight up and honest.
During 2017 I completed my first half marathon. I also did my first real trail race. I was flying. I was so fast. I was in great shape, or so I thought. But truth is I couldn't be more wrong. I had lost my period because of my low weight. I called in sick from school to go to the gym. I lied to friends and family. I hid food in plastic bags in my room to avoid eating. I was living on Coca cola zero and oatmeal. To eat something that someone else had cooked did not exists in my head, and even less eating at a restaurant. Therefore i never joined friends, and always came with excuses. I had to be in control. It became an obsession. During lunch-break at school I used to tell my friends that I had to go and do something, to avoid having to eat. I lost so much hair, I struggled to sleep, lost my passion for everything I had ever loved before. I became a monster. Unable to laugh, live and enjoy life. Food, calories and exercise never left my head, not even when I was asleep. Counting calories became my safety. Feeling my body starving became my high. It made me feel proud. I was so far from healthy. Yet I continued, until one day when it all crashed and I finally asked for help. There and then started a long and tough journey towards a happier and healthier life.
So here comes the real truth about eating disorders, the truth that no one talks about; The eating disorder took my life. It took everything I had ever loved. It destroyed my happiness from inside and out. There is nothing beautiful about eating disorders, nothing poetic. There is just a terrible pain. A dark ending that is coming closer and closer. Too often I see a romanticised image of eating disorders. An image that I today, with a healthy mind, know is far from right. Eating disorders don't give lives. They take them. That's the bitter truth.
Today, about 2 years later, I've come a long way. I've gotten my period back, gained weight, stopped using exercise to cure anxiety and found a will to live. I haven't reach my goal yet, but I keep fighting, knowing that it will be worth it. I rarely talk about this, unless someone ask me. Maybe because I still feel like I'm not allowed. But honestly, saying it out loud is the first step to recovery. So don't be afraid. We are strong. We can do this.
Everyone deserves to tell their story. Don't ever call someone attention seeking because they dare to speak up about their struggles. And most of all, don't be afraid to ask someone how they are doing. It could save their life.